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Strategy for NIH Funding
Approaches for Staying Funded · Strategy for NIH Funding
Pages of Part 7. Funding
To continue funding, you can either submit a renewal or apply with a "new" application. See which option is best for you, then determine when is the most advantageous time to apply.
Learn the rules for renewals, and read our tips. Know how to plan for and prepare your renewal application, including strategies for dealing with the 20 percent budget cap.
(This section has factual information only; for advice on this topic, go to Our Advice below.)
To continue funding, you can either renew your grant by submitting a renewal, or you can apply with a "new" application.
Note that a new application must be substantially different in content and scope from the previous one, for example, have new Specific Aims and a materially different Approach section. Read Our Advice at Option 2: Create a "New" Application in Part 6.
Referral officers in the Center for Scientific Review (CSR) use software to compare applications and will reject a new application if they deem it not significantly different from the previous one.
CSR will question these situations and take the following actions.
Problem: insufficient changes. After an unsuccessful resubmission, you submitted a new application with insufficient changes.
What will happen. The scientific review officer will contact you and give you a chance to rebut CSR's decision. If CSR disagrees, it will return the application to you without a review.
Problem: progress report. Your application has a progress report instead of preliminary studies.
What will happen. CSR will work with you to correct the problem. Depending how much time remains before the review meeting, you may need to withdraw the application and submit for the next receipt date (assuming there is one). Read about withdrawing at Assess Your Application After You Submit in Part 4.
For an electronic renewal, download the most current grant application package for your funding opportunity announcement (FOA).
Renewals follow the same format and page limits as a new application with a few exceptions. Here is a summary.
PHS 398 Research Plan
Senior/Key Person Profile
SF 424 (Cover Page)—several items, follow the SF 424 Application Guide.
Note: if you submit a renewal application before the due date of your progress report, you do not need to submit a separate progress report for your grant.
Receipt dates. For R01s, non-AIDS renewals are due March 5, July 5, and November 5. To find other receipt dates, go to NIH's Standard Due Dates for Competing Applications.
Study Section. You can request any study section in your cover letter if it’s relevant to the science. Keep in mind that there’s no guarantee it will go there.
For the full instructions, check the SF 424 Application Guide and the FOA's Guide announcement.
(This section has advice only; you should also read the factual information above at Just the Facts.)
A good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan for staying funded by answering three questions.
Renewing a grant is a big challenge for many PIs who often find themselves running out of money as they revise and resubmit their renewals.
To keep your current project funded once the grant ends, you will need to apply for support and undergo initial peer review again.
A good strategy is essential. Start laying out a game plan for staying funded by answering these questions:
Read about our strategies to avoid a funding gap in Approaches for Staying Funded in Part 7.
Your situation and the science dictate which route is most advantageous: submitting a renewal or a "new" application.
To make this decision, it may help to conceptualize the difference between your long-term research goals and your short-term objectives, your Specific Aims.
If you think of your long-term goals as a line or bar, your Specific Aims are one segment. So while your goals may take a lifetime to achieve, you must be able to complete your Specific Aims within the award period of a grant.
Renewal. Request funding to continue to pursue the same goals you have been pursuing but with new Specific Aims. Your peer reviewers take into account what you have accomplished when assessing the merits of your new application.
New application. Even if you stay in the same field, proposing a project that goes after new goals is a new application.
In both cases, reviewers judge the merits of the research, its relationship to your previous research, and the impact you have made on your field of science.
If your research has gone well, peer reviewers are likely to give you an edge no matter which approach you take because you have a proven track record, and they know it takes time to build a successful research team.
But experienced investigators feel it is usually advantageous to apply with a renewal if they have made progress and want to continue the same long-term project. Here is what we advise.
Plan to continue your project under the same activity code (e.g., R01), with new Specific Aims.
Made progress and accomplished most of your Specific Aims.
Submitted under a request for applications (RFA) and the bullets above apply.
Even though you are submitting a renewal, consider changing the title since it should reflect the new Specific Aims you are proposing.
Want to significantly change or expand the scope of your research. See next section.
Want to start over with a new idea, for example, if the research is not going well or you have not accomplished several Specific Aims.
Plan to use a new funding mechanism, for example, change from an exploratory/developmental grant (R21) to an R01.
Want to apply under an RFA.
Have used up your one resubmission. Talk to your program officer for advice on which aspects of the application to consider retaining.
And here is another approach.
Split your project into two applications: one for a different set of research goals and a renewal to continue the existing project. Be careful not to dilute the original application's quality. In your cover letter, state that you are using this approach.
Consider whether to apply early rather than wait until the last possible receipt date before you would incur a funding gap.
To avoid a gap, think about applying one or more review cycles early to gain extra time in case you must resubmit. In FY 2012, roughly 18 percent of R01 renewals were funded on the first try, so plan on resubmitting.
But here's the catch: no matter when your application arrives, reviewers expect to see accomplishments. If your work is progressing slowly, it's better to wait to get results that you can describe in the application.
So ultimately your timing hinges on your comfort with your progress and the length of the grant. For example, if you have a three-year award, you may not have enough data to apply early.
Weigh the pros and cons for applying early, and ask your program officer for advice.
In some cases, waiting to spend more time polishing your application is a better strategy than rushing to meet a receipt date, and the delay may have only a small impact on timing of an award. For more advice on timing, go to Timing Factors That Affect Your Application and Award.
Another timing issue is: how long can you wait to submit a renewal after your grant ends?
NIH does not set a time limit, but reviewers will probably be concerned by major gaps between projects because the science has likely changed. Take this into account when writing the application, and prepare a new application if the research is dated.
If the research is still current with the latest science, address the following points:
A renewal should clearly link back to your previous grant's Specific Aims, show progress, and not duplicate the aims of the previous grant. Follow these tips.
Avoid a gap. Apply as early as you can before the end of your grant to avoid a break in funding.
Get preliminary data. Make sure you have data before sitting down to write.
Revisit the science. Review your Research Plan, especially the Significance section.
Showing progress is enough. You don't have to do everything you promised.
Revise even if your R01 application is nominated for selective pay.
Keep up with your peers. Assess what the outside world (including reviewers) thinks of your research.
Publish before you apply.
While it is often best to keep the same title, use a different title if it's a better fit.
If you do, check the box indicating that your application is a renewal on the checklist (the last page) of the grant application. That way, NIH will know that the title is new, but the application is a renewal.
In general, it's best to request the amount of money you need to perform the research.
But renewals have an extra consideration: for the past several years—which we expect to continue—NIAID has capped the amount of money you can request for a renewal R01.
The cap is part of our Financial Management Plan (data won't be on the page when we don't have a budget; read more at Paylines and Budget Pages Change Throughout the Year). It affects all applications, modular and nonmodular, regardless of funding level.
Here's how we compute it. We base the cap on the direct costs of the last noncompeting award minus the following:
We then increase that amount by 20 percent to get the cap level.
Here's an example.
For modular grants, if the cap results in a number between modular increments, we round up to the next module. In the example above, that would take your budget request to $200,000.
Contact your institution's business office with questions about calculating your budget cap. Your grants management specialist will discuss your actual funding level when negotiating your award.
As we said above, always request a budget level needed to adequately fund the science, although our budget cap for R01s can make that job harder. Institutes will not allow you to skirt the cap by requesting a larger budget after the first year.
To help you cope, here are several options to choose from.
If for any reason you don't get the money you need, you can negotiate fewer Specific Aims by letting your program officer know which ones you would not be able to do at the lower amount. Read about grant negotiation at Getting a Grant Award in Part 7.
During both lean and fat years, we all have to live within our means, as difficult as that may be.
Here are some tips for dealing with a tight budget era.
Strategy for NIH Funding
See the other sections of
Part 7. Funding
Table of Contents for the Strategy
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Last Updated May 21, 2013
Last Reviewed June 07, 2012